From hockey to basketball to soccer, plenty of sports have cheerleaders to spice up the game and provide entertainment during dull moments. While all of these sports feature cheerleaders, the sport with the best and most prominent cheerleaders is clearly American football. Professional cheerleading isn’t the most lucrative avenue – cheerleaders generally make around $75 - $150 per game, while the team mascots make up to $65,000. Additionally, cheerleaders often have to pay for business expenses out of their pockets – but it can be a fun way to meet people, engage in a thrilling athletic activity, and can often offer a boost in future job prospects. Despite the lack of financial compensation, NFL cheerleading is fiercely competitive, and only the best of the best will make the cut. These ten cheerleading squads are the most popular and prestigious that the NFL has to offer, along with two of the best squads in college football, and one from futbol rather than football.
10 Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos are a stellar team, and now that MVP, Peyton Manning is quarterback, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future. The team’s status equals high visibility for the cheerleading squad, which could greatly benefit a cheerleader’s future – everyone wants to hire one of America’s sweethearts. Additionally, the Denver Broncos' cheerleading squad only allows the cream of the crop – in 2013, over 200 women auditioned for the Broncos cheerleading squad, although only 26 positions are available. It doesn’t hurt that, with their Wild West theme, the Broncos cheerleading squad has some of the sexiest and most iconic uniforms in the NFL.
9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The lack of financial compensation for NFL cheerleaders is paralleled in Notre Dame’s cheerleading squad. There are no scholarships available for cheerleading, despite the fact that cheerleaders are required to practice four nights a week during the football season. However, the equal gender divide makes Notre Dame’s cheerleading squad a team that many people want to be a part of. The squad consists of six men and six women. This allows for a greater variety of routines that feature athletic feats like lifts. With only twelve spots available, at a university that caters to over 12,000 students, the team is extremely selective, but the exclusivity only heightens the appeal of Notre Dame’s cheerleading squad. Who wouldn’t want to cheer on the Fighting Irish?
8 Jacksonville Jaguars
While the Jacksonville Jaguars are a notoriously terrible NFL team, the cheerleaders that attempt to keep fans interested during losing games are infinitely better. Despite their lack of athletic prowess, the team – and thus the cheerleading squad – are practically guaranteed airtime, even if it’s only to address the Jaguars’ failures. Additionally, talk of moving the team to London, England, could result in the prestige of cheering for the first international NFL team in history. If the move occurs, the Jaguars’ cheerleading squad could have a very bright future as one of the most popular and sought after in the NFL.
7 Louisiana State University Tigers
Louisiana State University is famous for its top tier sports teams, and the cheerleading squad is equally renowned. Cheering for the Louisiana State University football team results in heaps of exposure on TV, so if you’re a cheerleader whose goal is cheering in the NFL, LSU is a great place to start working your way up to the top. LSU cheerleading has consistently been at the top of competition cheerleading in the United States, and either advanced to the finals, or earned a top ten spot at the 2014 UCA & UDA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship. The NFL also heavily values education, so earning a degree while cheering, exponentially increases your chances at going on to cheer for an NFL team.
6 Houston Dynamo
While the Houston Dynamo may not be a football team, they’re definitely a futbol team, and the cheerleaders for the Dynamo have rightfully earned a spot on this list. Although cheerleading teams for MLS aren't quite as lauded as the cheerleaders for the NFL, the Dynamo cheerleaders have made a huge splash, and they’re a super competitive and exclusive squad. With perfectly synchronized routines, excellent dancers and amped up music, it’s no wonder that the Dynamo are the most popular and esteemed cheerleading squad in the MLS. Combined with number one on this list, the evidence seems to be undeniable that it just might be a Texas thing.
5 Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders are the only NFL cheerleading squad to have a ‘mature’ content button on their website, to ensure that viewers are over 18. From that evidence alone, it’s clear that the Eagles are something special. The Philadelphia Eagles cheerleading squad has been around since 1948, so it’s a team with an excellent track record and some pretty interesting history. Many of the Eagles cheerleaders have University degrees and full-time jobs, so if you’re hoping to cheer for the Eagles, you must be great at balancing, both literally and metaphorically. The Eagles cheerleaders are some of the best performers around, and the team is fiercely competitive – the auditions last several rounds, and only the most talented women make the squad.
4 Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts cheerleading squad, founded in 1954, has long been a team that’s highly sought after. Hundreds of women audition for the 26 spots on the squad, and the Colts also feature an elite cheerleading camp for young girls. The squad has also performed twice at the Super Bowl, in order to support their team. The Colts cheerleading squad’s fame shot up in 2012, when several members shaved their heads to support the Colts’ coach, who successfully battled leukemia. The camaraderie and skill of the Colts cheerleaders make this squad one of the best.
3 New England Patriots
The New England Patriots cheerleaders are such elite dancers, that they trekked all the way to China in 2008, in order to assist Chinese dancers with training for the Olympics. Their skills make cheering for the New England Patriots one of the most desired positions in the cheerleading world. Performing for over 70,000 fans per game definitely has its perks as well, since plenty of cheerleaders continue to cheer for the performative aspect. This wide viewership also has the potential for opening up several avenues down the road, whether it’s for modeling, networking or job opportunities. Like many of the squads on this list, the Patriots cheerleaders also release an annual calendar that many hope to be a part of.
2 Oakland Raiders
The Raiderettes have long been one of the most entertaining cheerleading squads in the NFL, and have remained positive and engaging, even throughout the Raiders’ worst ups and downs. The Raiders have moved from Oakland to L.A. and back to Oakland, but the cheerleading squad that was founded in 1961 and dubbed “Football’s Fabulous Females” have remained at the top throughout the trying moves. While cheering for the Raiderettes may be a huge time commitment, it has proved to be a smart career move for many women who go on to become professional models, actresses and fitness instructors. Cheering for the Raiderettes pays off in countless ways, making it one of the most prestigious squads.
1 Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are quintessentially American, and have long been the NFL’s premier cheerleading squad. This cheerleading team is so sought after by both the public and cheerleading hopefuls, that media appearances are now old-hat. In fact, the team even has its own reality show, called Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. The show has proved to be so popular that it has remained successful and has run for a shocking 8 seasons, more than most television shows. Featuring the most skilled dancers, paired with some of the sexiest uniforms in the NFL cheerleading scene, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders will probably be rightfully hogging the spotlight for another decade, at least.